– Managing Stress –
The common theme in my wellness practice is stress. The stress of work, impending layoffs, the commute, children, relationships, grief, trying to eat well, finding time for one’s self and the list goes on. Our schedules are simply too busy.
Daily we are inundated with negative news stories and witness environmental disasters and world issues. We are keenly aware of the increase in heart disease and strokes and how chronic stress can increase our chances of this occurring. So what happens to us when we are exposed to all these stresses?
Stress hormones are released into the body that interfere with sleep, age our cells and damage parts of the brain that are critical to memory. Our response to stress can place our bodies in a fight or flight state – which is the impulse to run or flee even when we don’t have to. We experience the rush of adrenalin which becomes a regular response to our daily lives, which over time wears down the immune system.
Notice if you are clenching your jaw or your hands, if your shoulders or neck are tight, and take notice of your breathing; is it shallow and short, or long and deep? Is the breath in your upper chest area or your lower abdomen?
So what do we do? I believe the time to make a change is right now – not next week or January 1st. I gently encourage you to take the time today to make one small change for yourself. You really do deserve it.
Here are a few best ways to manage stress:
Ion cleanse or Ion Detoxification: regularly cleanse your body of the toxic stress hormones such as, cortisol. Myself and my clients also report feeling calm and relaxed after a session.
Media holiday: Take a break from the newspaper, radio, TV, conversations that focus on the doom and gloom of the daily onslaught of negative news. Try listening to music, reading a book, meditating, taking a walk instead. Try this for a week and notice how much calmer you feel and how your sleep improves.
Breathing: Ideally we take longer deeper breaths. The lower abdomen or belly will rise on an in-breath and lower when we exhale. Breathing through the nose is best as it filters out dangerous toxins in the air. Place one hand over your heart and one on your lower belly. Which hand rises as you breathe? Take time to practice your breathing and change it over time. Try it in bed before you go to sleep. It can help you relax you to drift into a deep sleep. And try this too: breathe in to the count of three, hold for three and exhale slowly. This will also help distract you from stressful thoughts.
Yoga: There are many styles of class you can try. If you are looking to reduce stress; perhaps try peace, restorative or yin classes. A hot vigorous class may make you feel tired, but could also rev up your nervous system instead of calm it down. It is helpful to try a variety of classes to see what works best for you.
Focus on what is good in your life right now: Instead of placing focus on all that seems to be unsuitable, or worrying about what could go wrong, make a mental list of all the aspects of your life you are grateful for. Focus on being happy, choosing to feel good with a new bounce in your step and notice the positive comments from family, friends and co-workers. This way of being embodies the famous quote by Ghandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Exercise: Exercise produces endorphins, our body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Try getting out for a walk. Put your shoes on and walk around your home or your office building. Try doing a few laps, going up and down stairs. Progress to outside and enjoy some fresh air at the same time. Dust off your gym membership and hire a trainer for one or more sessions to get you going. There is no tomorrow in wellness – it begins right now, otherwise tomorrow keeps getting postponed to another day. There is a sign at a restaurant I love to visit: Free Beer – tomorrow. Tomorrow is always off in the distance. Love yourself enough to make fabulous positive changes in your physical exercise. Come and see me, I will help get you there!
Spend time outdoors: Ahhhh, the feeling of fresh air filling your lungs. Later summer and fall are a little cooler for walking and taking in the sights. Water is soothing to be around, forests provide shade and incredibly fresh air. This all serves to help soothe frayed nerves at the end of the day. I find that if I begin my day with an outdoor walk, I feel ready and energized for a productive day.
Animal companions: The unconditional love and joy they show us is unparalleled. Studies have shown how the time we spend with them can help to lower blood pressure and greatly reduces the signs of stress. I am not suggesting you run out and get a pet; only do this if your schedule provides you with more than adequate time for their care. If you already have one in your home and in your heart, spend more quality time with them. They need your attention too, as much as you need them.
Reiki: This is an energy balancing session that I do with my clients. It is deeply relaxing, greatly reduces stress and calms the nervous system. It triggers the parasympathetic aspect of the nervous system which is responsible for the rest and repair function in our bodies. It is the exact opposite of the fight or flight response that can occur daily with repeated stress. It is a cumulative mind body spirit practice that retrains and restores the natural flow of energy in the body. It also calms the emotions, helps to shift thought patterns, helps heal the physical body and greatly enhances our spiritual connection. It is also a practice that one can learn to do for themselves. I do my own self-treatment every night in bed to help heal me and calm me down to prepare for a restful night’s sleep.
Food intake: Junk food is known to elicit the stress response and causes undue strain on the digestive system to try and rid the body of toxins like excess fats, sugar and salt.
Caffeine: One cup of coffee is fine per day, but more than that and you can over stimulate your nervous system which can cause agitation, shakiness, headaches and affect your normal sleep pattern.
Begin by choosing one or two of the above suggestions and try them. Pay attention to the positive changes they make in your life and how your stress is reduced over time. I suggest being gentle with yourself as you make these shifts in your daily lifestyle. Permanent healthy change takes time, patience and consistency.